A basic tenet applies to subcompact and compact cars: They are designed to provide economical transportation and hold the frills. What you get in return for minimal dollars is an engine, four wheels, seats and a roof overhead. Refinement, luxury touches and driving pleasure cost money, more than most manufacturers competing in this particular market think they can persuade you to spend? That doesn't mean these little machines are deficient. They meet the same safety and antipollution standards as larger cars do, they're generally well-built, and get the job of moving passengers between points A and B done effectively. What they don't offer, however, is much in the way of personality. Except, that is, for the Dodge and Plymouth Neon. If any cars among the entry-level crowd deserve to be called "cute," the Neon twins are the likeliest candidates. They are fresh, perky and distinctive. But their appeal goes beyond looks; they are genuinely fun to drive and are spirited performers, arguably the best in this class. If that doesn't appeal to you, there are plenty of other choices. Look at the freshly redesigned Ford Escort and Mercury Tracer, Geo Metro, Toyota Tercel, Nissan Sentra, Hyundai Accent or Elantra, Mazda Protege, Chevy Cavalier, Pontiac Sunbird or any one of a number of others. Each of them is stingy with fuel and provides low-cost transportation, adequate (or better) interior room, and performance that's acceptable at the very least. Lots of choices here. Nevertheless, the Neon can compete with any of these worthies in terms of practicality, but adds its own distinct flavor to the field. On that basis alone, it's worth looking at.